Allies make all the difference

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Having colleagues who support you, exactly as you are, makes the workplace a more fulfilling and enjoyable experience for everyone.

U.S. Bank’s Head of LGBT Strategy, Ann Dyste, recently spoke with Daniel Spiller, chief risk officer of payments, about being an ally for LGBT employees, including Marshall Rinek, a risk analyst in wholesale banking. The bank encourages all employees to support LGBT co-workers and community groups individually or through its Spectrum employee group.

Ann: With Ally Week coming up (Sept. 24 to 29), talk about what this means to you and why allies are important?

Dan: While bank colleagues may be perceived to be similar, my experience is completely different – I’ve known bank employees who were rockers, Democrats, Republicans, farmers, sports fanatics, environmentalists, Libertarians and every sexual orientation and identity. I’ve always considered it a privilege to be trusted as I know trust in me allows me to build deeper relationships.  We may draw strength from diversity, but as colleagues and allies, we mentor, sponsor, form friendships and watch out for all of those we care about.

Marshall: An ally is someone who accepts you as you are and empowers you to be the best employee / friend / etc. you can be They don’t lower their expectations of you due to differences you embody.

Ann: For someone wanting to be an ally to the LGBT community, what is one thing that you’ve done to be a supporter Dan?

Dan: Don't minimize what it means to be a member of the LGBT community. Don't ever say something like, "I don't even think of you as gay."  Imagine how that would feel to you? Be aware of what it means to grow up potentially feeling as an outcast. Also, let LGBT people be different than what you expect. The media creates a certain image of communities -- whether LGBT, nerds, Jews, and even bankers -- but no one is exactly what the media creates, and we should never expect it.

Ann: Marshall, what has been the one thing that’s been the most helpful for you  from having an ally like Dan in your life?

Marshall: I realized that my life outside of work was permissible and acceptable.  U.S. Bank does not have any one image or one customer type that we’re trying to serve.  Diversity in the workplace allows for different perspectives, whether it be serving our customers or finding solutions to problems. It has also enabled me to build deeper and more candid relationships with colleagues and mentors like Dan. When you can invest your heart as well as your mind in the workplace, it makes the experience of doing your job that much more rewarding and meaningful.

Ann: Likewise, how can we demonstrate support for our allies?

Marshall: As an LGBT individual, show commitment to being the best “you,” you can be.  Be genuine and present and add value in all that you do.

Ann: As you know, National Coming Out Day is Oct. 11th. Obviously coming out in the workplace is a very personal (sometimes difficult) decision. Why is our decision to celebrate this day at U.S. Bank valuable in the work setting?

Dan: Young employees -- whether summer interns or our newest generation of employees -- expect us to have views on important issues.  It is not always easy, but it is worthy. Fundamentally, too often our society considers the legal victories in the LGBT community -- legalizing same sex marriage -- as sufficient, but most of any community's concerns exists well outside our legal system, and no matter how important a legal ruling might be, it doesn't magically make things better. When we hear from and communicate with our newest employees, we really have the chance to focus on the real feelings, which may be significantly different.

Marshall: As Dan noted, millennials value empathy and honest communication.  In allowing employees to share what is meaningful to them, we empower them to put their hearts into their work and better serve our customers. 

Ann: What is the role of the manager in this delicate process? Any advice for other managers?

Dan: I’ve always considered it a privilege to be trusted.  Trust in me allows me to build deeper relationships with my employees.  When you really get to know your colleagues, it becomes clear that while we’re all bankers, we’re really just representatives of the communities we serve – every type of person you can imagine. 

Ann: What makes you proud of U.S. Bank?

Dan: Every day, we start with our top core value -- We do the right thing.  It clarifies who we are and why we do what we should in every area in which we operate.  

Marshall: That U.S. Bank has achieved a sterling reputation and sound financial performance by doing the right thing to earn customers’ trust.  We’ve shown that doing the right thing pays off.


To read more about leadership allies at U.S. Bank click here.